How Your Parish Council Works
The activities of Parish Council include the following :
- Commenting on Town and Country Planning Applications.
Planning applications are decided by Wiltshire Council in accordance with the relevant policies in the emerging South Wiltshire Core Strategy and certain "saved" policies from the old Salisbury District Local Plan. Council officials look at whether the application is consistent with the Plan. Even so, the Parish Council and the neighbours are consulted for their views. In marginal cases or where some interpretation of the development plan will be required then a good deal of notice is taken of what the Parish Council has to say in support or in objection to an application.
- Representing the views of parishioners, either individuals or groups, to "the authorities". This embraces activities as diverse as speed limits, pollution, highway maintenance, nuisance, bus service, flooding, council services, anti-social behaviour.
- Monitoring and arranging maintenance of Rights of Way.
- Working with the Wiltshire Council Parish Steward. Once per month our Parish Steward visits Bishopstone to carry out tasks requested by the Parish Council.
- Contributing to the forward planning process of Wiltshire Council. Central government increasingly sets out the general path that it wants local government to follow. It results in a process generating discussion documents, consultation exercises and drafts that the Parish Council is invited to comment upon or contribute to.
- Managing the Recreation Ground.
- The bi-monthly Parish Council Meeting drives the actions required. It is the forum where the Council can determine its policies and implement them. Minutes of meetings (records of discussions and decisions made) are kept by the Parish Clerk. The approved minutes are posted on the web site.
A general report on Parish Council meetings is published in STAB, the parish magazine.
Structure of the Council
Bishopstone Parish Council is made up of seven councillors elected from the village community. Elections coincide with those of Wiltshire Council. The next will be in 2017 and every four years after that.
If there are not enough candidates to fill the seven seats or when the electorate does not call for an election after a seat has fallen vacant then the Council co-opts a member from a list of volunteers. Members elect a Chairman who by convention, serves for two years when he or she is succeeded by the Vice-Chairman. Other members take on specific responsibilities for different areas of council work.
Parish Council meetings are held on the first Thursday of every other month in Bishopstone Village Hall starting at 7.30pm.
The “Parish Meeting” is held on the first Thursday in March each year. This is the formal village meeting when the Parish Council and representatives of organisations and charities in the village make their parish report. Parishioners are encouraged to attend and to comment. Members of the public and press are very welcome to attend meetings of the Parish Council and listen to discussions. A time is given over for parishioners to ask questions of Council members although they are not able to participate in discussions or decision making. Exceptionally the Chairman may ask that a meeting or part of a meeting takes place in private, although in practice this is rare.
Councillors are unpaid. Their behaviour is controlled by a Declaration of Interests that must be signed and by a Code of Conduct.
The Parish Clerk
The Parish Clerk draws up the agenda for meetings, keeps the minutes and handles correspondence under the direction of the Chairman. Additionally the Clerk must be up-to-date on codes and legislation affecting the behaviour of the Council and Councillors. In this capacity the Clerk is expected to advise the Council on procedure and to take the lead in implementing the decisions of the council.
The Responsible Finance Officer
Parish Council accounts are managed by The Responsible Finance Officer who, in a small parish such as Bishopstone, is usually the Parish Clerk or a Councillor taking on the financial role. He/she manages the Council's bank accounts, produces the reconciliation of income and expenditure and reports to the Council on financial affairs.
Of considerable importance for the Responsible Finance Officer is the development of the annual budget and the calculation of the "precept" required to raise money from local Council Tax payers in order to balance the budget.
More information ......
There are many web sites expanding upon the structure, role and duties of Parish Councils and Councillors. Typically search the following :
Where you can download the “Good Councillor Guide” and the “Good Governance Parish and Town Council Toolkit”.
The Council sets a budget each January from which it is able to quantify the funds required from parishioners in the form of a village tax. This "precept" is collected by Wiltshire Council through the council tax.
In recent years most parishes have tried not to increase the "precept" significantly. Bishopstone has also done this since it is relatively simple to control the cost of running the council. In future small increases may be required if further necessary improvements are to be made to the village and its surroundings.
Details of what is being spent against the budget are routinely examined by the Parish Council.